Chaka Khan is an American singer and songwriter. She was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 20th 1958 and she became famous after joining Rufus with Chaka Kahn in 1973. They released their first album the following year which included “I’m Every Woman”.
Chaka Khan is one of the most celebrated and influential R&B/Pop singers in history, with a career that spans over four decades. With hits like “I’m Every Woman,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” and “(Love Is) The Strangest Thing,” she has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Chaka Khan is an American singer and songwriter. She is known for her R&B/soul voice and as the first artist to popularize the use of a drum machine in pop music. Her work has earned her five Grammy Awards, including two for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, three Soul Train Music Awards, six Billboard Music Awards, and one Academy Award nomination.
Chaka Khan established her high status as the frontwoman of Rufus as one of the most dynamic and talented performers to emerge in the early 1970s. They broke into the mainstream with the slinking “Tell Me Something Good” (1974), a Top Five pop song that earned a Grammy, and continued to put albums in the top levels of the pop and R&B charts throughout the decade. Khan began her solo career with “I’m Every Woman” (1978), an epic crossover disco blockbuster that led to eight more Top Ten R&B singles while Rufus was still active. “Ain’t Nobody” (with Rufus, 1983) and a version of Prince’s “I Feel for You” (1984) are two of Khan’s memorable works, both high-tech productions that did not overwhelm the innate pleasure and force in his voice. Khan has recorded many jazz classics over the course of her five-decade career, which can be heard in concentrated form on albums like Echoes of an Era (1982) and Classikhan (2004). Two of her ten Grammy wins were from her covers album Funk This (2007). She reappeared with Hello Happiness (2019), an effervescent EP that varied from retro-contemporary dance to fluid reggae, after a long recording hiatus.
Yvette Marie Stevens grew up on Chicago’s South Side in the Hyde Park area. She grew up surrounded by music and founded her first band, the Crystalettes, when she was 11 years old. She was a member of Afro-Arts Theater, a group that performed with Motown legend Mary Wells, and joined the Black Panther Party as a political activist while still in high school. Chaka Karifi was her name at the time, given to her by a Yoruba priest. She quit the Black Panthers in 1969 and dropped out of high school, ultimately joining Cash McCall’s Lyfe, a band that included Hassan Khan, with whom she was married (though briefly). She left Lyfe to sing with the Babysitters, who had just lost vocalist Baby Huey, but this was also a brief and unhappy experience.
Former American Breed members Kevin Murphy and André Fischer, who were attempting to gain traction with a new group named Rufus, heard Chaka Khan and sought her out. Khan joined the band, which released their self-titled first album on the ABC label in 1973. The band, which was defined by Khan’s dazzling vocals and energetic stage presence, went on to produce six gold or platinum albums and three Top Ten pop singles, including “Tell Me Something Good,” which won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance. Throughout these years, the band’s billing changed to reflect Khan’s increasing prominence. They started out as Rufus, then Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Rufus & Chaka Khan, and finally Rufus & Chaka Khan.
Rufus could no longer control their vocalist and co-songwriter at some time in 1978, perhaps the week in July when Quincy Jones topped the R&B chart with “Stuff Like That,” which included lead vocals from Chaka Khan and Ashford & Simpson. Khan had a slew of extracurricular credits on records by Stephen Bishop, Chicago, the Gap Band, Joni Mitchell, and Lenny White, but they were all little potatoes. “Stuff Like That,” coupled with Rufus’s ever-brightening spotlight, put her on the verge of a breakthrough. Khan got a contract with Warner Bros. and debuted with Chaka in October of that year. The album included “I’m Every Woman,” an exquisite disco song written by Ashford & Simpson that topped the R&B chart and reached number 21 on the Hot 100, establishing a long relationship with producer and arranger Arif Mardin. While the album deviated from Khan’s previous work with Rufus, it did so with an updated version of “Love Has Fallen on Me,” written by Charles Stepney, who also produced the song for the Rotary Connection’s Hey Love.
Despite his instant solo success, Khan reunited with Rufus for the Quincy Jones-produced Masterjam, the band’s fourth and last R&B chart-topper. Khan released her second solo album, Naughty, in March 1980, just a few months after it was originally released. “Clouds,” a soaring Ashford & Simpson song, was the album’s greatest success, reaching number 10 on the R&B list (with two voices of the Houston family, Cissy and pre-fame daughter Whitney, heard in the background). What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me, Khan’s third consecutive Top Ten R&B solo album, was released in April of the following year. Khan’s second R&B chart-topper was the title song, which was first covered by Average White Band. That year, she and Rufus reunited for Camouflage.
During 1982 and 1983, stylistic approaches were achieved that were broader and more favorable. The first was Echoes of an Era, which included Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White on a collection of jazz classics. Then followed a self-titled solo album, which included a smash rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Got to Be There,” a slick bebop medley, and a Rick James duet. Rufus & Chaka Khan’s double live/studio set Stompin’ at the Savoy was the last and most popular. The band’s final R&B number one, “Ain’t Nobody,” also a number 22 pop success, was among the new studio tracks on the fourth side. Khan won Grammys for all three of his projects from 1982 to 1983. Best Vocal Arrangement went to “Bebop Medley.” Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female went to the self-titled album. Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal went to “Ain’t Nobody.”
Khan, who had previously shown a talent for creating creative cover versions, took it to the next level in 1984 with an electro-funk remake of Prince’s “I Feel for You.” It was Khan’s biggest solo song, topping the R&B chart and reaching at number three on the mainstream list. It included Melle Mel and Stevie Wonder. The song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and Khan won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance, Female for the second time. Three more songs from the platinum album of the same name charted, including the ballad “Through the Fire,” which was co-written and produced by David Foster and gave Khan a huge adult contemporary hit. Destiny, which included the Scritti Politti duet “Love of a Lifetime,” and CK, which featured Prince, Womack & Womack, and Brenda Russell, were released in 1986 and 1988, respectively. Khan was also involved in other projects, including Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.” (The latter was initially intended to be a duet; Khan’s label protested, but she was given credit for her vocal arrangement.) Quincy Jones again revisited “I’ll Be Good to You” towards the close of the decade, the original version of which he had produced for the Brothers Johnson. The remix, which featured Khan and Ray Charles, reached number one on the R&B charts and earned Khan his fifth Grammy in the R&B Performance category.
Khan’s last studio album for Warner Bros., The Woman I Am, was released in 1992 and reunited Khan with Arif Mardin. David Gamson of Scritti Politti, who produced “Love You All My Lifetime,” an almost number one R&B smash, was also on board. Khan won another Grammy for Best R&B Performance for the album. Khan recorded a follow-up album, Dare You to Love Me, during the following three years. The challenge was not accepted by Warner Bros. The label put the album on hold, adding a couple of its songs to the 1996 compilation Epiphany: The Best of Chaka Khan, and dispersing additional material from the sessions to soundtracks, including the hit Waiting to Exhale. All of this led Khan to leave the major-label system and join up with Prince, another musician with a tumultuous Warner connection. Come 2 My House, Khan’s lone album for her friend’s NPG label, was released in 1998.
Khan was featured on the charting De La Soul song “All Good?” and authored her autobiography, Chaka! Through the Fire, in the first few years of the next decade. In 2004, she won another Grammy, this time for her performance in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown with the Funk Brothers of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Later that year, she released Classikhan, a collection of jazz classics distributed worldwide by different small labels. With Funk This, a combination of covers and originals produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the band took a new path. The album won Best R&B Album at the 2007 Grammy Awards, while the single “Disrespectful” won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Khan continued to collaborate and won additional awards, including one from her birthplace, where a street was called Chaka Khan Way. “Like Sugar,” Khan’s next solo album, was released in 2018. Hello Happiness, an EP of similarly cheerful, groove-oriented makeup, was released in 2019, and was produced by Switch and Sarah Ruba Taylor, much like the previous single. Homecoming, a live CD/DVD album filmed when Khan played with her 12-piece band at Chicago’s Harris Theater the previous year, was released by BMG in March 2020.
Chaka Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens on November 4, 1953. She is a singer and songwriter who has been active since the mid-1960s. Her career has spanned over 50 years and includes six Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, three Academy Award nominations and two Emmy Awards. Reference: chaka khan husband.
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